There are actually three different types of nutritional anemia: iron, B-12, and folate.
Anemia is a blood condition in which the number and/or size of the red blood cells is reduced. Because red blood cells move oxygen from your lungs to the tissues, it’s easy to see how any decrease in their size or amount limits how much oxygen is transported.
It’s that lack of oxygen transport that can result in the most common symptoms of anemia including weakness, tiredness, poor concentration(“brain fog”), pale skin, mild depression, and an increased risk of infection.
Fortunately, anemia can usually be corrected through proper diet and/or supplementation.
Correcting Iron-deficiency Anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and is usually caused by blood loss of some type. Women with heavy menstrual periods, teenagers and young children are at high risk, as are chronic dieters, female athletes, distance runners, and people on very restricted vegetarian diets.
Other common causes include surgery, accidents, bleeding ulcers, certain cancers, and chronic or repeated nose bleeds.
For iron-deficiency anemia, your focus should be on iron rich foods including:
- Oysters and clams
- Organ meats like pork or calf liver
- Sardines, tuna, and shrimp
- Whole grains
- Grape juice (no sugar or preservatives added)
- Apricots, peaches, prunes and raisins
- Pumpkin seeds
When eating iron-rich foods, or taking supplemental iron, be sure to also include plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron.
If you take an iron supplement, try taking it with a juice that’s high in vitamin C or with water that’s been spritzed with a dash of vitamin C-laden lemon, lime, tangerine, or orange juice.
Other iron-absorbing suggestions:
- Eat plenty of vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
- Eat protein with every meal. Protein facilitates iron absorption.
- Eat high protein, lean meats and poultry. The healthiest meats by far are those which are certified organic grass fed or free range meats which have not been subject to feed lot practices. Also add organic cheeses and nuts to your daily diet.
- Space your supplements and iron consumption out. The more iron you consume at once, the less the body actually absorbs. Eating small iron-rich meals every 2 to 3 hours can help you absorb iron more effectively.
- Use cast iron cookware. Tiny iron particles from the cookware are transferred to food during cooking and can provide a significant source of dietary iron.
Beating B-12-deficiency Anemia
B-12 anemia is also known as pernicious anemia. Even a slight deficiency of this important vitamin can lead to anemia and inevitably to fatigue, depression and even mania. And, frighteningly, a long-term deficiency can potentially result in permanent brain and central nervous system damage.
Luckily, vitamin B-12 can be found naturally in a number of animal products. The top ten food sources for B-12 are:
- Clams, oysters, and mussels
- Beef liver and beef
- Seafood and fish (especially caviar, octopus, mackerel, herrking, salmon, tuna, cod, sardines, trout. bluefish, crab and lobster)
- Lamb (mutton)
If you’re a strict vegetarian, or have had part of your stomach or intestines removed, you should be getting periodic lab tests to monitor your B-12 levels. Supplementation will usually be necessary in these cases and occasionally injections of B-12 may be required if your levels drop too low.
Fixing Folate-deficiency Anemia
Often, what may appear to be a B-12 deficiency is actually a deficiency of another B vitamin called folate.
But preventing folate deficiency is easy. Just be sure to include plenty of folate-rich foods in your diet, such as:
- Lentils, beans and peas
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach
- Asparagus and corn
- Wheat germ
Before taking an iron supplement be sure to have your iron levels checked because too much iron is just as bad as not having enough, if not worse!
If you’re planning on becoming pregnant, you should begin taking a folate supplement several months before conception to help prevent the risk of neural tube defects.
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